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Ryane Greene, MHS, RD, LDN
What is mindful eating? Mindful eating is taking into consideration all feelings presented by your body, and those triggered from your current environment as you are eating. The idea of mindful eating was developed as a Buddhist concept, which involved being fully aware and in touch with your body while you are eating. This includes knowing how you feel mentally, as well as physically
How your emotions play a role. Studies show that our eating habits are largely impacted by our current emotions. Two well-known examples of this are eating out of stress or eating out of boredom. Before you choose to eat something, ask yourself “Am I really hungry? Or am I just eating for alternate reasons?” Statistics show that approximately 50% of people increase food consumption due to increased stress. This also applies to eating out of boredom, or for recreation. To avoid doing this, try paying attention to the emotions your body is displaying and take into consideration how these may be significant.
Environmental Impact. As a society, it has become very common that we eat while participating in another activity. This could include watching TV, driving, working, or simply having a conversation. When you do this, your body relates back to muscle memory rather than being cognitive. You begin to eat at a quicker rate, not chew your food as thoroughly, and become less aware of how full you are. Instead, try starting with small portions, take small bites, chew thoroughly and pay attention to the signals your body is sending you. Always remember to eat until you are satisfied rather than until you are full. It will take a bit of time until your brain catches up with your stomach, so you may actually be fuller than you think. After waiting a while, you can always get another small amount if not satisfied.
Keeping a Positive Mindset. Another significant part of mindful eating is the mindset you approach it with. Before you eat, take a moment to be thankful for your food. Most people tend to enjoy their food when they give thanks for the ability to have it. Even if you think you may not enjoy the meal as much, or if you see it as “too healthy” to be enjoyed, you won’t enjoy it. You must first look at your meal in a positive manner to fully appreciate it. With that being said, you also don’t need to judge yourself. If you happen to slip up and indulge, don’t get down on yourself. First recognize what has happened, why it happened, and what you can do to prevent it happening in the future. Know that this is a process that will take time, and that better habits will develop with the passing of time. You must also trust that you’re doing what you need to, and what is best for you. Don’t get down on yourself if you aren’t able to see immediate results, the changes won’t be drastic either. You have to stay committed, and focus on your overall health rather than just the outcome of your physical appearance.
Your Shopping Habits. Your environment and emotions not only make an impact while eating, but also while you are purchasing your food. When we’re in a rush, we tend to rush straight to the quick and familiar processed meals. To avoid impulse buys, go grocery shopping with plenty of time to spare and a well planned out shopping list. According to Harvard Medical School, planning a grocery list is the first step in mindful eating. Even small things like making a grocery list can help tremendously with mindful eating and an overall healthy diet.
Keep In Mind. The concept of mindful eating is often mistaken to be some form of dieting. Unlike dieting, mindful eating is intended to be a permanent part of your lifestyle. Mindful eating includes the aspects of your diet that most people don’t think about. While mindful eating is not easy, many find it much easier that dieting. The results may not be as quick or noticeable, but when in combination with a healthy diet, it will contribute a lot to your long term health.